Petit Plemont

Petit Plemont

As we come to terms with the future of Plemont today with yesterdays vote in the States chamber not to compulsory purchase the site for an unknown figure and so allow the approved plans for 28 luxury houses,  I thought I would give some thoughts and views on the subject which I have had a minor interest in for some time, in the 2002 elections I attended the St Martin hustings when Chris Blackstone challenged sitting Deputy Hill I asked the question of the candidates on what they wished to happen to Plemont, Deputy Hill thought it was not exactly a topical question for a St Martin’s hustings and the government should not purchase the land, Mr Blackstone also questioned the use of public money in this way but he was against large scale developement there, he wished the site could be improved and that perhaps an interpretaion centre along those that he had seen in similar areas of natural beauty could be sensitively built there as a compromise, Deputy Hill won the election, it is interesting to note this is the year Senator Ozouf topped the polls with over 14,000 votes, the Senator as treasury Minister was in favour of the site being returned to nature with what would appear to have been an open purse.

The next time I was involved was around 2007 when Dr Glyn Young of Durrell on behalf of Plemont Estates Limited published a report on the Puffin’s  (link to PDF) as part of an environmental impact assessment (EIA) requested with the revised plans by the Planning & Environmnet Department, this was the first I had heard of this and as Chair of the Société Jersiaise marine biology section I questioned a number of parts of the report which was rewritten and included the sections comments and was republished in 2008. Also through raising concerns with the media we had meetings with Dr Young and I have to say at only a few hours notice Mr Paul Harding attended a meeting which were very grateful for, he also gave a presentation to the Société Jersiaise executive at which I was present. The section and myself had raised concerns about seabird decline in several other consultations and on one occssion I was severely criticised by the authorities for raising these issues in public, and I was personally threatened by part time fishermen. With the publication of the Coastal Strategy which agreed with some of our concerns and that year the Scrutiny panel chaired by Deputy Duhamel looked at the subject of the impacts of fishing, the authorities implemented a seasonal conservation area which was progress in the right direction but unfortunately the area is not monitored or managed and the restrictions are openly flouted, and so itself is presently acheiving nothing other than it making it look like something has been done on paper, when in reality the number of Puffin’s has declined to the point that there is little or no sign of them breeding in the island and I think this year 8 were counted. The Government as part of the Island Plan implemented what must be a first in that we have a Coastal National Park that totally ignores the sea, even though during consultations groups and individuals raised the issue of marine protection. And as part of the public consultation regarding Ramsar I raised the issue of marine protected areas and this was totally dismissed and the consultation was never published and I was excluded from the management panel, I do question how we have an authority that wishes to engage with the public then dismisses or blocks their comments, it is not only rude but a waste of public and peoples time and money. So in my view a great deal of discussion by those concerned in the area has taken place and the authorites actually showing little concern or interest in the motion for conservation other than they were obliged to, coupled with little public interest in the area of Plemont, in fact when I asked the question at the hustings there were several groans and moans, it may be because I am not that popular with some people in my native Parish!

As to the future: one has to make do what the best we have and move forward with the positives in that the issue has supposedly raised a great deal of support for the conservation and enhancement of the area, it remainss to be seen if this will continue and how it will be channelled, rather bizarrely the National Trust appear to be turning their heads away from Plemont and say that it is not worth looking at with the buildings there and they have no wish to work with the developer, as I see it so far the developer has spent a great deal of time through the EIA in highlighting some of issues and factors required to help the wildlife in the area and in it states that it will work on this if the scheme was approved, and the Environment Department have done little other than create a large paper chase that our civil service are apt to do and the biodiversity including the Puffin which we take as an emblem not only for the area but in some respects the island with great affection, unless your former Deputy Guy De Faye of course, and the infamous shoot out with Oscar out at Gronez.

In the debate many of the speakers highlighted their concerns about the natural coastal environment which I have yet to see any evidence of so perhaps they are changing their stance and we are now a looking at a more conservation minded governemt that has largely ignored the marine environment other than it sees sustainable energy as a way of selling off the islands waters which it actually leases from the crown under condition it respects the environment. I recently contacted Scrutiny highlighting the lack of action in the implementaion of marine reserves as stipulated in Coastal Strategy 2008, in that a network would be implemented by 2010 and I am awaiting a reply from Deputy Luce who I know is not in favour of them, but I hope he can be persuaded to think otherwise, in the spring of this year Deputy Duhamel was also questioned on the topic and he avoided answering it and basically said work is in hand and watch this space,  in reality he also agreed with the implementation in 2008, so from personal experienceI have little faith of him doing anything. Seantor Le Gresley highlighted the areas natural value and what could be done with conservation projects and thought the area worthy of World Heritage status which is a little ironic in that the group set up on the instigation of the government to look into the island bidding for such status has been refused funding by them.

Make a marine reserve at Plemont?

Total Catch in the NE Atlantic 2003 - 2011 in tons

Total Catch in the NE Atlantic 2003 – 2011 in tons

So why am I so in favour of marine reserves I hope if you read the following it will explain simply why:  EU fisheries are in decline as the graph above by the WWF and their post on “Bankrupting our Oceans” aptly explains how, okay so Jersey is not in the EU it can be said, the facts are scientific data in Jersey is poor and lacking and is often manipulated to mask the actual issues, but as an example these do show declines in our Bass fishery to under half in the last decade this is a fish we are all familiar with and is of  commercial importance not only for commercial fishermen but anglers so it has a sporting and touristic value  in a number of ways and it currently generates a gross income of just over £100,000 to the commercial fishermen. What I put to former Environment Minister Deputy Pryke was that Jersey should set aside 1% of its waters as “no take zones” this you may think was a credible request for the public to set aside a small percentage of our waters, sadly the officer in charge who has now retired but his legacy lives on, responded that this was a considerable request and was very concerned about it, so no progress there, even more puzzling when we now have a Minister of Environment that previously in 2008 put forward recommendations for marine reserves that had been supported by submissions to his Scrutiny panel so 4 years on no progress from him. What can these reserves deliver? Their values are numerous in that they protect, enhance, and improve production so there are gains all over including economic that come with the increased numbers of fish which figures vary from 450 to 800%  as mentioned by Woods Hole Oceanic Institute.  So what is the opposition to investing 1% of our Islands waters that are currently declining by say 5% per annum that could give a return of say 500% over a decade, giving insurance and assistance in a number of areas in the proces? In my recent dialogues with authorities I have mentioned the national work for marine protected areas and that is many years ahead of us, and suggested instead of following we take the option to lead and implement these areas now as there will be a greater value in tourism, research, and education and instead of being a backwater of marine conservation we could become a leading example with a great deal of interest being generated in the process, but as yet they are still reluctant and instead are engaging at some cost with the French and their proposed parc marin which is actually no more than our Ramsar sites from what I can see, and these locally have been poorly managed by the authorities and reports have shown a decline in habitat and species so have in reality seen the biodiversity decline not increase during their alleged “protection”. So I live in hope that one of those politicians who have aired their concerns for the islands environmental future actually put their words into actions, but with a reluctant Minister and Scrutiny panel it remains to be seen. As to election time I raised the issue in 2011 at the Senatorial hustings for the environment and most if not all those eventually elected were in favour of the idea apart from the then Minister Freddie Cohen.